Taking New York City by social media storm, Zang Toi style

INTELLECTUAL property is defined as “the right given to a person over the creation of their mind is one of the cornerstones of the US economy”.

So how could it be that the recent David versus Goliath fashion design imitation issue that had the social media sphere in a tailspin recently as a top multi-billion powerhouse was accused of imitating Zang Toi’s New York City skyscraper design even arise? 

Zang Toi – irrepressible and exuberant fashion designer to the stars and celebrities (think Eva Longoria, Sharon Stone and Melinda Gates) and darling of the glitzy fashion runway – recently found his design which was first unveiled two decades ago in 2009 to be embroiled in controversy.

What ensued was the perfect social media storm in which his legion of fans called out billion-dollar fashion design house Ralph Lauren for “copying” Toi’s design which singer-songwriter Alicia Keys wore at the recent 2022 Met Gala.

As far as Toi is concerned, the latest furore over his famous New York Skyline Cape which first made its runway appearance way back in 2009, is indeed a backhanded compliment though arguably this isn’t the first time his design has been imitated.

Datuk Zang Toi’s design exuberance and originality reflected in this “copied” iconic cape design was birthed out of his love for New York City.

“It is proof that you are good at your craft when someone copies your work,” he said as in this case the David versus Goliath battle over design originality sides in favour of the small-town boy from Malaysia.

The self-effacing designer says he prefers to leave this episode on his shelf and instead, “move on and save his energy on designing his next collection”.

Living the American dream merged with the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit to the hilt epitomises flamboyant Toi’s exuberant design style.

So distinctive is Toi’s fashion design style statement that it is hard to detach or diffuse even parts of his design.

“Originality is very important and always close to my heart as an artist,” he said in an exclusive interview with Focus Malaysia.

In his characteristic self-effacing manner, he takes it as a compliment and proof since imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all.

Toi remains consistently in love with Malaysia even as he calls America home. The Kelantan-born Toi remains true to his roots due in part to his love for his family and country Malaysia.

Having lived in New York City for over 40 years, Toi considers NYC his home. And, due to that, he has acclimatised and learned to adapt to American culture even as he works to contribute value to his second home.

Toi’s trump card in his love for New York was also on open display in Zang’s Fall 2019 “Red, White & Blue ‘All American Collection’” as a tribute to America, his love of the country and living the American Dream.

The sheer combination of audacity, ingenuity, originality and hard work has kept this self-professed “free-thinker” ever since he was a little boy in Malaysia on the path less trodden which reflects in the originality of his designs.

In parting, his advice to young designers who want to make it big internationally is to “dream big and work hard”.

“Many people have talent but success requires hard work and a good work ethic which has attributed greatly to Toi reaching and maintaining the level of success in this highly competitive industry,” he said. – May 13, 2022

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